In late December 2015, One Direction announced they would be taking a hiatus in light of the band members’ collective desire to pursue their own solo careers. A year prior to this announcement, band member Zayn Malik made the decision to go solo, releasing the single “Pillow Talk.” All five previous members of the band have released projects, but the frontman of One Direction, Harry Styles, surpassed the work of his former bandmates with a smashing debut album. Styles’ self-titled album was coveted by both fans and music junkies alike and soared to instant popularity. Critical acclaim was a characteristic unique to Styles’ work compared to that of his previous bandmates.
“Through it all, [Styles] manages to steer clear of all the traps that ordinarily sabotage a boy-band star’s solo move,” said Rolling Stone music critic Rob Sheffield. “The whole album proves there’s not a thing ordinary about this guy.”
The album is surprising in the respect that it appeals to all different types of music fans. The essences of music legends like David Bowie, John Lennon and Queen are clearly channeled throughout the album, an immense change from the mega-hit pop sound of One Direction. Styles’ influences range from 60s rock to 90s grunge to present day pop, all of which flow within a somehow perfectly molded and seemless 10 tracks. The beauty behind this album is the fact that it was created in less than a year and exceeds every preconceived expectation of the typical mediocrity from an ex-boyband member’s first project. This sort of solo career is quite the rarity, allowing Styles to immediately escape the teen pop identity that had enveloped Styles throughout his career in One Direction.
The album opens with an eerie alternative ballad entitled “Meet me in the Hallway.” The track sets the tone for the rest of the record and immediately delves into the overarching theme of the trials and tribulations of being in love. The third song on Styles’ album, “Caroline,” is a catchy tune reminiscent of 50s blues-rock and the earlier music from The Beatles. “Caroline” tells of Styles’ “love at first sight” experience with an unconventional, small town girl. A surprising turn on the album would be the song “Kiwi.” “Kiwi” is a raunchy rock song which tells the story of Styles’ infatuation with an edgy girl who to him, is beautifully reckless. The album concludes with “From the Dining Table.” The final song is ballad that expresses Styles’ want for broken relationship to repair itself. Styles’ shows a need for his past lover with the acoustic track’s melancholy tone.
Styles eclectic sound on his first solo album expresses a wonderfully different vibe from his previous “cookie-cutter” work in One Direction. His raw talent made for a surprise that has been appreciated from music fans of every genre, something that reaches far beyond the solo work from his previous bandmates. Overall, Styles’ first album set the bar above excellent and paved the path for a highly successful career in the future.